Q&A: Don’t bother with max credit score

Dear Liz: I am seeking your advice on how to maximize my credit score. Recently one of my cards was canceled for non-use, which reduced my available credit to $75,000. I use three other cards in rotation, never use more than 3% of my credit limits and always pay the balances off. I have made a few requests to have my credit limits increased in order to elevate my current 835 FICO score, only to be denied. I want to maintain as high a FICO score as possible (850). In order to do that I need to “play the game” … only I have no idea what the rules are! Could you please help me navigate this?

Answer: There is absolutely no practical benefit to having the highest possible credit score. You’ll get the best rates and terms once your scores are above the mid-700s on a 300-to-850 scale.

Regular readers can recite this next part by heart: Keep in mind that you don’t have one credit score. You have many, and they change all the time.

Even if you did hit 850 with one scoring formula from one credit bureau, you probably wouldn’t keep it for long or achieve the same number with all the other available scores.

You already know the most important credit rules: Use your cards regularly but lightly and pay your balances on time and in full every month. (Credit scoring formulas typically don’t “know” if you’re carrying a balance, so there’s no advantage in doing so.)

If you’re determined to hit 850, however, you could try using even less of your credit limit, applying for a new card to increase your available credit (the initial small ding to your scores would be short-lived) or simply waiting, since often the mere passage of time will add points to your scores.